The Genesis of leadership

by Richard Pollard

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20 Apr 2011

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PWC'S GLOBAL LEADERSHIP programme, Genesis Park, is an intense programme based around real life experiences and real time coaching to accelerate leadership development and equip its top talented people to be future PwC leaders.
The programme targets the top 2-5% of the highest potential, highest performing senior managers who are on track for partnership.

The Genesis Park approach takes individuals through real life experiences – not role-play – and examines how they react and resolve real issues facing PwC’s leadership today. The group take on a business project such as a detailed study of an issue related to sustainability, a challenge relating to the quality of information in business, or assessing or developing a market opportunity or strategy.

The approach is not about qualifications for leadership in theory – it’s designed to practically equip individuals for the future. It’s about building real life experience and relationships for leadership in reality. Part of the intensive nature of the programme is dealing with unprecedented challenges, such as being involved by the global board on a project or issue at a moment’s notice.

It’s hands-on from day one. Ten weeks of real life problem-solving gives participants a chance to not only apply what they’ve learned, but also prove individual skills as a real leader of the future – from teamwork and coaching, to deadlines and debates. Participants have the experience to lead as soon as they leave Genesis Park.

There are five parts to the curriculum: talent management, the whole leader model, advanced leadership, business methodologies and insights, and real experiences. Nothing is simulated – participants deal with real client work, with real challenges and the politics that come with a high level project. The personal transformation is accelerated by mixing familiar and unfamiliar situations and approaches, such as coaching, storytelling, feedback, personal reflection and dealing with real challenges in the project work they undertake.

One of the unique and innovative aspects of Genesis Park is the ‘whole leader model’ – a holistic approach to developing leadership potential. It looks at all aspects of a person, from their mind to their emotions to social interactions – all the foundations of their leadership qualities. Crucially, it’s about developing participants to be the best leader they can be based on their individual personality – it’s not about creating ‘clones’. This ‘whole person’ approach has an intense impact on those on the programme and it helps participants know how they personally lead.

Developing personal resilience, responsibility and authenticity is an important part of the programme, which comes through intensive real-time coaching and candid feedback from coaches and peers. This live-in-the-moment coaching is powerful. Participants learn on the spot how they could perform differently, helping them understand themselves, how they relate to others and how they react to issues. It’s not about teaching the theory of leadership, but equipping future leaders to face the tough realities of leadership.

Genesis Park is concentrated. Living at close quarters and working on a series of tough assignments for ten weeks in a new city, challenges participants physically, emotionally, professionally and intellectually. Meeting a series of demanding realities encourages creativity and innovation and helps the future leaders think more broadly and deeply about clients’ realities and wider personal, political and global realities.

Developing resilience is central to being a great leader and we don’t apologise for pushing participants hard to accelerate and transform their ability to lead. It’s important participants get the support from their peers on the programme, the coaches, but also those back at home, both at work and family and friends.

We encourage those who want to bring their immediate family, to stay with them during the programme. Being a great leader and going through intense personal development can affect a person’s family unit. We’ve found there are benefits in family members seeing and understanding the process people go through and the demands on them both in a work sense and emotionally, and of course participants benefit from the positive encouragement of their family members.

To help develop, maintain and support these connections, social media has played a big part in connecting participants before they meet for the first time. By meeting and sharing via an online collaboration space and blogging, participants have already built relationships when they meet face-to-face at the programme, a factor which also intensifies the pace of learning.

In addition to this, participants have a Genesis Park coach who stays in contact throughout their experience and a partner coach who participants meet through a series of formal, individual and team coaching sessions.

The programme takes place in different cities worldwide, so employees have the opportunity to engage with the local PwC practice and international economies, broadening their view, not just their experience. There are about 50 participants at each location, and they represent our offices from across the global network. The cultural diversity of the programme helps develop global leaders with a greater understanding and appreciation of each other’s difference and backgrounds.

At the end participants have a strong network of peers, new and intense real-world experiences to draw on and vitally, a deep understanding of their style as an authentic, resilient and responsible leader equipped to face future leadership challenges.

Richard Pollard is global development leader at PwC

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